Even though many businesses have been trying everything possible to protect themselves from data breaches, cybercriminals are still finding ways to infiltrate networks and systems and extract sensitive information from their victims. After a data breach occurs, it’s the business, not the cybercriminal, that’s left cleaning up the mess — and it’s the aftermath that’s uncharted waters for many business owners.

While avoiding data breaches at all costs should be a top priority for any business, today’s ever-growing threat landscape makes it extremely difficult for business leaders to identify and patch vulnerabilities in their systems and networks correctly. About 33 percent of breaches are caused by unpatched vulnerabilities. Since cyberattacks have become more commonplace, more dangerous and more sophisticated, it’s best if you learn how to respond effectively and efficiently to them.

Developing a plan to address data breaches may seem a bit overwhelming at first, especially if you’ve never drafted one before, but reacting to any cyber incident without a plan in place, even if the plan is brief, is unequivocally setting yourself up for failure.

While every situation varies,  there are steps you can take before and after you’ve been hit with a data breach to recover quickly and limit the damage.

Call in your team of experts

Data breaches are more complex today than ever before. Nowadays, they frequently require several professionals’ expertise — including attorneys, communications professionals, forensic teams, IT professionals, and human resources specialists. While assembling a team may be challenging, especially with limited resources, it’s necessary to have that team of experts on standby. Without one, you’re only leaving your business open to additional data loss later on.

Find the source of your problem

Identify the source of your problem before determining how to fix it. (Your forensics team can assist you with this.) Work with the IT professionals on your team of experts to find out the actions you should take. For example, you may have to update the credentials and passwords of authorized users in your system. There’s a solution to every problem. You need to identify the problem first.

Inform your customers

When your business is hit with a data breach, you must notify stakeholders, including customers, other affected companies, and law enforcement. The attorneys on your team of experts should help you with who your stakeholders are and when you should contact them. Depending on your business, you may even need to comply with the FTC’s health breach notification rule. Be sure to be thorough with your assessment. The last thing you want to do is leave out key stakeholders.

Assess the financial impact

After suffering a data breach, many business owners almost immediately begin calculating its potential financial impact on business operations for good reason. The fact of the matter is, data breaches are expensive. In 2020, on average, they cost businesses $3.86 million, according to the Ponemon Institute’s Cost of a Data Breach Report. By preventing data breaches, you keep more money in your pocket; however, when one, unfortunately, gets past you (and it will from time to time), protect your bottom line by limiting additional damage wherever possible.

Having a plan in place is what will limit the damage caused by a data breach. Preparing for data breaches is the best way to prevent them and quickly recover from them if you’re hit with one. Keep a team of experts on hand to help you with assessing the financial impact and who should be informed.